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33 Advisory War Council Minute 452

MELBOURNE, 6 August 1941


(The Hon. Sir Frederick Stewart, Minister for External Affairs,
and the Hon. Sir Frederic Eggleston, Australian Minister to China,
were present for this discussion.)
The Prime Minister [1] explained to Sir Frederic Eggleston that it
was desired to afford him an opportunity for discussion with the
members of the Advisory War Council prior to his departure for
China [2], and he invited Sir Frederic to outline to the Council
those matters he wished to raise.

Sir Frederic Eggleston expressed his appreciation of the
opportunity of meeting members of the Council, and proceeded to
enumerate the following matters, together with his views thereon:-

Sir Frederic Eggleston referred to the resentment by China of the
possession of extra-territorial rights by foreign Powers and the
pressure which had been brought to bear to secure the surrender of
them. It was certain that a similar approach would be made to him,
and he desired to know the attitude he should adopt. His own view
was that he would not say he was in favour of the surrender of
these rights, but that the attitude of the Australian Government
was one of general agreement with the policy of the United Kingdom
and other parts of the British Empire and the statements that had
been made on this subject.

The Prime Minister did not consider that China was likely to press
this point, but it could be said when the war was over and peace
restored that it was not likely we could resist a request on these

Mr. Curtin [3] said that he understood that the jurisdiction of
the special courts applied equally to Australians as British
subjects, and that a review of these special privileges should be
made when the appropriate time came.

The Minister for External Affairs read a recent cablegram to the
United Kingdom Government regarding the Commonwealth's attitude to
this question. [4]

Sir Frederic Eggleston said that he understood our general
with China could be expressed as those of friendship and a desire
to see China play its strategic role in Asia and the Pacific as a
great nation. He wished to know whether, in expressing any such
view, we were to risk stimulating Japanese hostility.

The Prime Minister did not consider that there was any point in
making a pretence when our true attitude was known. Japan knew
where Australian sympathy lies, and there have been acts in recent
times, such as the re-opening of the Burma Road, to which our
support had been accorded, which were clear evidence to the
Japanese of Australian opinion.

Mr. Curtin said that he would not like to see the Australian
Minister's [5] task in Tokyo made more difficult.

Sir Frederic Eggleston added that it could also be said that we
supported those who resisted aggression, and would be willing to
help in the reconstruction of China on the attainment of peace.

Sir Frederic Eggleston considered that there should be a liberal
interpretation of the provisions relating to the entry of Chinese
students into Australia and the facilities extended to business
men to bring their families and staff. He thought the
administration of the regulations on this subject and the
treatment accorded to Chinese in the past had been liberal.

Dr. Evatt [6] referred to the evasion of the immigration laws
which was practised by the Chinese, and considered that they
should not be encouraged.

Sir Frederic Eggleston also mentioned the case of the Australian-
born Chinese who had gone back to China and wished to return to
Australia. This class presented some difficulties.

Mr. Curtin considered the description of the Australian
immigration policy as the 'White Australia Policy' was
unfortunate, and was of the opinion that it should be referred to
simply as the 'Immigration Policy'.

Mr. Makin [7] mentioned the dangerous misconceptions which were
likely to arise from references to Australia being a sparsely
populated country. Sir Frederic Eggleston explained that any
references made by him on this aspect had always been accompanied
by an explanation of the geographical conditions and rainfall
considerations which governed the areas of settlement. The Prime
Minister added that there was also the story to be told of the
great development that had been achieved by the Australian people.

Sir Frederic Eggleston stated that our exports are mainly wheat
and flour, and these go to Shanghai. He enquired as to what should
be his attitude on the question of credits, as there may be things
which we could supply. He observed that the sale of wool depended
on the raising of the standard of living in China, but from a list
read by him it was agreed that the things that China wants most
are those which we require ourselves for the war effort.

Sir Frederic Eggleston referred to the fact that no legal
provision exists for his term of office.

The Minister for External Affairs explained that the Minister was
appointed during the pleasure of the King, and that in the case of
Mr. Casey [8] the Minister had been given a letter to the effect
that the engagement is for a term of five years.

The Prime Minister observed that in the United Kingdom the
Ambassadors and Ministers are as a rule 'career men'. In severing
their business and professional associations in Australia, the
Australian appointees should have the certainty of a period of
office in order that they might adjust their private affairs

Mr. Curtin stated that the Prime Minister's views were acceptable
to his Party.

1 R. G. Menzies.

2 Eggleston left Australia on 28 August and travelled to Chungking
via Batavia, Singapore, Bangkok and Rangoon. He arrived in
Chungking on 20 October. For an account of the journey and his
discussions en route see his dispatch 4 of 19 October on file AA :

A981, Australia 162, ii.

3 Leader of the Opposition.

4 See cablegram 459 of 21 July on file AA : A461, A703/1/2. The
Commonwealth Govt's view was that after the war with Japan was
over, China would seek to abolish extraterritorial rights and that
for the time being Australians in China should continue to be
subject to British courts.

5 Sir John Latham.

6 Labor Party M.H. R. for Barton.

7 Labor Party M.H.R. for Hindmarsh.

8.Minister to the United States.

[AA : A2682, VOL 3]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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